Bud Selig ‘overwhelmed’ by visit to Hall of Fame
Bud Selig’s birthday this year will undoubtedly go down as his most memorable.
The longtime owner of the Milwaukee Brewers – before becoming big league baseball’s ninth commissioner – will celebrate his 83rd birthday on Sunday, July 30, the day he will join his most prestigious team and be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Allan H. “Bud” Selig, a lifelong baseball fan, was elected to the Hall of Fame, along with baseball executive John Schuerholz, by the Today’s Game Era Committee on Dec. 4. Five months later, on Thursday, April 27, he was in the Cooperstown baseball institution as part of an Orientation Visit all new electees are offered in order to prepare them for their Induction Weekend.
Prior to receiving a behind-the-scenes tour of the Hall of Fame from Hall of Fame Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections Erik Strohl, Selig was shown the Plaque Gallery, where he looked at the bronze images belonging to Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Hank Aaron and Robin Yount, before using a black marker to write “Bud Selig HOF 2017” on the open spot where his own plaque will reside in three months, only a few feet from the first five electees (Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner).
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Soon, though, Selig was seated on a chair for a mid-afternoon press conference held at one end of a sun-draped Plaque Gallery replying to a wide range of questions from the assembled media.
Asked what his feelings were being at the Hall of Fame on this day, a contemplative and emotional Selig, often at a loss of words to properly articulate his thoughts, took two minutes to answer.
“I’ve said before and I’ll say it again because it describes my feelings today: I didn’t think anything could overwhelm me, but this has overwhelmed me and then some,” said Selig, wearing a blue sport coat and red striped tie. “For those of you who know me well, and there are several people here who do, I really treasure the history of this sport. The history, the tradition, everything about it is amazing. And when I think as a kid how I read about a lot of these people. As a kid growing up in Milwaukee I read about Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Happy Chandler, but who could believe that six decades later a plaque would go up on the wall with me as the commissioner of baseball. It is overwhelming. I don’t what else to say about it. This whole day takes me breath away.
“And people will understand it when they come here July 30, which ironically is my birthday. You couldn’t dream about this, you couldn’t write a script, you couldn’t make a movie about it, because nobody would believe it. And that’s how overwhelming it is and how dramatic it is and how meaningful it is.”
Selig had a profound impact on big league baseball for a quarter-century. While owning his hometown Milwaukee Brewers, he was appointed acting MLB Commissioner in 1992 before the interim title was removed in 1998. Overall, he served 22 years as Commissioner, the second longest tenure in major league history behind Landis. During his time in the Commissioner’s office, Selig, among his many accomplishments, oversaw the 1993 and 1998 expansions, advent of the Wild Card and divisional playoffs, the creation of interleague play, the introduction of replay for umpires, and the start of the MLB Network.
“The future of the sport will get better and better and better,” Selig predicted. “I’ve said that for years. There’s no question in my mind. We had no right to dream 25 years ago that the sport would be where it is today. And I think somebody will be sitting in this chair 25 years from now and the sport will have grown again. I was fortunate during my commissionership we had the greatest growth in baseball history by far. And I’m grateful to all the people who worked hard and cooperated.”
When asked if he had any regrets from his tenure as commissioner, Selig replied he didn’t but admitted he’s sometimes asked that question by his students in a college course he’s teaching.
“There are some things that happened that of course were very sad, but in the end I know what I set out to do and we pretty much accomplished all that,” Selig said. “There are things that happened but I think we reacted well to it and got done what you had to get done. When I think of where we were in 1992 when I started and where we were when I left and where they are today, it’s a remarkable story.
“You have to do what you think is right. It may not always be popular and may not always be something that’s ever easy, but you have to do what is in the best interests of baseball,” he added. “I’m proud of what we did. The objective when you’re commissioner is to leave the sport in better hands than you found it.”
Today, as the Commissioner Emeritus of Major League Baseball, Selig serves as an adviser to current commissioner Rob Manfred and assists him with special projects.
“Rob Manfred is doing an extraordinary job,” Selig said. “Our attendance is up, the game has never been more popular, but this is not to suggest that we shouldn’t work on ways to improve it, because they are and will continue to. And that’s good. There’s no question they should continue to work on things. But the Grand Old Game is doing very well.”
Selig is the fifth commissioner elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Landis, Happy Chandler, Ford Frick and Bowie Kuhn.
“The one advantage I have over a lot of people is I’ve been here a lot and participated in it (Induction Ceremony),” Selig said. “This is hard to describe. I’m never at a loss for words to discuss anything else, but this takes your breath away. It’s history, it’s baseball, it’s societal, it’s so big and so important that to think that you’re a part of it is overwhelming.”
As for his Induction speech, Selig admits it’s on his mind all the time: “It will get changed 8,000 times between now and July 30. That I can assure you. That’s the thing I’m surest of today.
“Life has changed, no question about it,” Selig said of becoming a Hall of Famer. “And it sets you to thinking about as a kid walking the streets trying to get a team for Milwaukee, 30 years old, having no idea how this was all going to work out. I didn’t even know if we were going to get a team. And then you look at the next 52, 53 years and …
“My students will occasionally ask, because they all know that when I was in college I wanted to be a history professor, and they say, ‘How did you go from wanting to be a history professor to all this?’ And that’s a great question. It (earning Hall of Fame induction) was the greatest day in my life, that’s all I can tell you.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum